Thursday, September 18, 2008

Change is Good

Unless you've committed the unthinkable, or done really evil deeds in your life, I would think that one of the worst ways to look at your life on your deathbed would be to see a straight line; no highs, no lows- consistent blah as a result of no risk and no achievement.

Today we are talking about change... stepping away from the norm and into the new- away from the seen into the spectacular, away from redundant and into refreshing. And the great thing is we can start very small and manageable or we can take about death-defying feats... it's all good.

The first thing we need to understand about change is the psychology of change. Not just why people change (ie positive motivators or rewards), but more importantly, why people DON"T CHANGE (the fears involved and the aversion to risk or the unfamiliar). A great way of understanding the psychology to avoid change is called the 'stages of change' model. It was originally developed to help people quit smoking, but has been introduced effectively to weight loss clinics, and pretty much anywhere motivation is required to overcome limiting or negative behaviors. The stages of change model is as follows;

1) Pre-contemplative stage. These are the people who haven't even considered change. They are the people who are either unaware there is a problem (or need for or benefit to change). They are either happy with their current state or (often the case) naive to the fact that they are unhappy with their current state. An example would be an overweight man who chooses to eat fast food and drink to excess but does so in the company of his friends and family and considers his behavior the norm- calling abusing his body spending quality time with loved ones.

2) Contemplative stage. In this stage, the pain in his back has registered, the winding after ascending the stairs, and the barely audible comments about his weight made behind his back are getting to him. He is not ready to do anything about it, but the fact that he wants to change is on his radar. "you know, I've been thinking about walking every day" or "I've been considering eating organic food lately" followed by... fast food and beer while having the same conversation over again.

3) Preparation stage. Coming home with brochures from the local recreation center programs, tuning in to "The Biggest Loser" on tv instead of American Idol, reading nutrition labels on the food products at home for the first time, buying a pedometer or heart rate monitor... all preparation stage signs. Even going to a gym for a consultation or purchasing a membership are great signs that change is on the immediate horizon.

4) Action stage. Seeing a personal trainer, attending gym classes, walking on your own, keeping a food log, throwing out the pop and chips, etc are all great action stage initiatives. In this stage- buddy boy is putting his money where his mouth is and where his muffin used to be.

5)Maintenance stage. In this scenario, our husky but habit-changing friend has been repeating the positive new behaviours for a period of at least 3 - 6 months. He has probably seen some results that have been a great source of positive reinforcement and motivation. He is probably also telling anyone who will listen about the journey.

at this point, the tale of our changing friend can take two turns.

6a) Relapse. Illness, injury, work stress, divorce, letting loose on the drinks one night, or any other trigger can threaten to knock our slimmer pal right back into his unhealthy old habits. OR...

6b) Re-invention. Or he can continue to implement new positive actions and turn those he has momentum with into habits that he maintains. This means making healthy eating and exercise into a lifestyle instead of a crash diet or bootcamp program. The end result- he is still the same great guy but with boundless energy, a new lease on life, and possibilities he has opened up for himself and even those around him- instead of someone who struggles to get through the day.

Please realize that this model is not limited to fitness or smoking or weight loss. My wife and I are getting close to the maintenance stage of some financial changes we've implemented for our household. My brother is a few years into the re-invention stage of his career and is loving it.

Change (and the possibility of more positive change) is all around us, and either it will happen to us to keep us on that straight line... or we will embrace- no, INVITE change into our own lives to add a roller-coaster of enjoyment, lessons, growth, and purpose into our lives and the lives of those around us.

What are you changing today?

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